Viognier (pron: vee•o•nyay) is a white wine grape variety that is known for producing full-bodied, aromatic wines with a rich and creamy texture. Believed to have originated in the Rhône Valley region of France, it is grown today in many wine regions around the world, including Australia, California, South Africa and, of course, Argentina. Viognier grapes have a distinct flavour profile that includes astonishing aromas of apricot, peach, honey, and floral notes such as violet and jasmine. This grape's naturally low acidity contributes to its rich and round mouthfeel, producing generally dry wines although it also used to produce sweet wines as well as dessert wines.
In Argentina, this relatively new grape variety was introduced in 1993 and despite being one of the strains of the moment, Viognier is still considered to be a non-traditional variety in the country. Even so, in recent years the many different labels of these unique whites have seduced vinophiles due to their excellent quality and particular character. Viognier is a difficult grape to grow as it is prone to disease and can be sensitive to climatic changes. This means in order to thrive, the grapes need warm, dry temperatures so they can ripen fully. Excessive heat, however, can cause the grapes to lose their delicate aromas and because they are low-yielding, wine production of this varietal is more expensive than other white wines.
With its success closely tied to the right climate in the areas where it is planted, the vast majority of the almost 800 hectares under vine in the country is located in the Mendoza and San Juan provinces. Even though it is most commonly found in the aforementioned two provinces, it is also producing excellent results in Patagonia, the southernmost part of Argentina. In fact, according to Argentina's National Institute of Viticulture (INV) Mendoza has the largest amount of Viognier in the country, reaching in excess of 500 hectares 63.3 per cent, followed by San Juan with 235 hectares 30.7 per cent and the rest of the provinces having a combined 46 hectares 5.9 per cent of total vines planted. In recent years, Argentinian Viognier has gained recognition internationally, with many wineries earning awards and high ratings from wine critics. This has helped to establish it as a leading white grape variety in the country, alongside other popular varieties such as Chardonnay and Torrontés.
Viognier wines are of an unmistakable yellow colour with golden reflections having delicate aromas reminiscent of flowers such as magnolia and sweet fruits like apricots and melon. On the palate it has good fruity volume and subtle notes of honey, added to an unctuous body and a certain structure. Viognier wines are powerful, mature, with low acidity and a lot of personality, described as generous, voluptuous and well-structured white wines. Argentine Viogniers are wines to drink young, during their first two or three years of life, in order to truly appreciate the fruity and floral notes in each bottle. It is therefore widely recommended that the best option is to choose the latest available vintage label.
In the domestic market, Argentines consume an average of approximately 10,000 hectolitres annually with 95 per cent of these labels being pure varietal versus 5 per cent blends of this grape. Exports topped 4,000 hectolitres with pure varietals destined for the Netherlands, UK, Denmark, Belgium and Canada. Meanwhile, wine blends made using the Viognier grape were mainly imported into the Netherlands, United States, Ukraine and China. As we come to the end of the week that was, Thursday Food remembers World Viognier Day commemorated last Friday, April 28, 2023 by presenting three of the best Argentine Viognier labels:
Famiglia Bianchi Viognier 2022 is a 100 per cent varietal produced by Bodegas Bianchi at their Vista Flores vineyards located 1,200 metres above sea level in Mendoza's Uco Valley. Scoring 90 points from Descorchados, the wine is a seductive, very lively greenish colour. On the nose it surprises with its freshness, having notes of white flowers and tropical fruits that are very well amalgamated with the mineral notes from the terroir. In the mouth it is agile, with a very refreshing and balanced natural acidity, where floral and fruity notes can be perceived that give a powerful expression on the palate, a characteristic that is only achieved when the right terroir is found to fully develop its power.
Vinyes Ocults Modo Viognier is a 100 per cent varietal that is made in the Los Chacayes area of Tunuyan, Mendoza by Boega Vinyes Ocults. This wine is a bright yellow blend with greenish reflections, expressing aromas of peaches with lime and melon. On the palate it is an unctuous wine, with a good texture and an agile mid-palate, combining complexity and freshness in a great way.
DiamAndes de Uco Viognier is a 100 per cent Viognier Varietal that is produced from vineyards in the Uco Valley by Bodega DiamAndes. The wine is a light yellow colour that is bright and fresh expressing floral aromas, and flavours of white peaches and dried apricots. It is juicy, unctuous and elegant with an intense finish as well as having a silky and creamy structure. This wine scored 91 points with Descorchado and is described as being elegant, complex and very seductive, with a strong identity.
Viognier is a versatile wine that not only pairs well with a variety of foods, but its rich and full-bodied character is an excellent option as an aperitif. It is a unique and flavourful wine that offers a refreshing alternative to other white wines.
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